Ponies, ponies, ponies



Jill’s Gymkhana is the first of the Jill books. Published in 1949, it was illustrated by Caney and published by Hodder and Stoughton. Jill Crewe is eleven, and she and her mother have just moved to Pool Cottage, Chatton. Jill’s father has died, and her mother supports them by writing whimsical children’s books (The Little House of Smiles is the first to be mentioned). It is the summer holidays, and having just moved Jill doesn’t have a great deal to do, so makes friends with a pony down the road. This is Black Boy, and after Mrs Crewe sells the serial rights of The Little House of Smiles, Jill buys him.

At first Jill is completely clueless, unlike the initial hero figure of the book, Susan Pyke, but she meets Martin Lowe at a local show, and he sorts her out. Jill learns to groom, and to tack up Black Boy without mangling both the bridle and her pony. At school, Jill meets Ann Derry and at last finds a horsey friend. Susan Pyke rapidly falls off her pedestal, as she is bought vastly expensive ponies with which she cannot cope. Jill stays with the Lowe family, who petrify her (though it later turns out she has them equally scared), goes on a riding weekend, and finishes up by taking three firsts, three seconds and a third at Chatton Show, and dropping the ebony base of the Challenge Cup at the steward’s feet.

Hodder & Stoughton 1949, illus Caney Knight 1968, illus Bonar Dunlop Knight 1974 Cover W D Underwood Illus Bonar Dunlop Knight 1983, illus Bonar Dunlop The different versions Armada 1963, illus Caney Hampton Library, illus Caney Knight 1990s Knight 1993 Not illustrated Dodd, Mead New York, 1950, illus Caney Hodder 1996 Not illustrated Hodder 1991 Compilation illus Bonar Dunlop Hodder 1994 Compilation Not illustrated Fidra 2009 Illus Caney